January 12, 2021

2021 Restaurant Trends Reflect Innovation and Survival in Unprecedented Year

Washington, D.C.– Last year was full of change and the search for comfort, according to the 2021 Restaurant Trends Report released today by the National Restaurant Association. The list reflects the pivots restaurants had to make early in the pandemic to survive and the innovation that has opened up needed new revenue streams. 

The top Food and Menu Trends included changes such as off-premises dining taking precedence, but it was also a year where nipping and bundling made important impacts on operations and revenue. According to a survey of 6,000 restaurant operators and 1,000 customers, the top trends included:

  • Streamlined menus
  • Selling groceries
  • Alcohol to go

This year, to identify what’s truly selling best during the pandemic, the Association surveyed restaurant operators to find out their Top Menu Sellers right now. They indicated that consumers were looking for more tried-and-true than new. Demand from both fullservice and limited-service restaurants included:

  • Burgers 
  • Pizza
  • Chicken items 
  • Breakfast items 

“These food and menu trends didn’t offset the industry’s devastation, but they do illustrate the resiliency, innovation, and commitment of restaurateurs,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of Research and Knowledge for the Association. “The pandemic served to accelerate many trends we were already seeing, while it taught more consumers how to digitally access the restaurant meals they wanted, so expect many of these innovations to be long-term trends and not fads.”

The Restaurant Trends are excerpted from the forthcoming 2021 State of the Restaurant Industry Report, which will be released on Jan. 26, 2021.

See the full 2021 Restaurant Trends Report here.

About the National Restaurant Association

Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises more than 1 million restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of 15.5 million employees. Together with 52 State Associations, we are a network of professional organizations dedicated to serving every restaurant through advocacy, education, and food safety. We sponsor the industry's largest trade show (National Restaurant Association Show); leading food safety training and certification program (ServSafe); unique career-building high school program (the NRAEF's ProStart). For more information, visit Restaurant.org and find @WeRRestaurants on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.